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Am I crazy? Buying a 21 year old...

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    Am I crazy? Buying a 21 year old...

    I have been leasing a 21 year old thoroughbred gelding for the last 8 months. I have just finished with school and will be moving across the country to start my full time work. The horse's owners have offered him to me to keep and bring with me, and would try to sell him if I don't take him.

    I really like this horse, but the rational side of my brain says that buying a horse this old is probably not the best idea. I don't really have any competition goals right now, and would be happy just playing around at Novice (about what we have been schooling), but I am hoping to take at least my C3 and B Pony Club ratings before I age out.

    The horse is currently barefoot and mostly sound with essentially no maintenance, just an oral joint supplement. He does has an old SI injury, and was basically just sitting in a field for 3 years before I started working with him, but he has gotten sounder as he has gotten back into shape and gained strength. He was never lame, just occasionally a little short behind.

    In the past he regularly competed at Training and did a few Prelims, but over the last about 5 years his work has been fairly inconsistent.

    If I did take him, I would do a full PPE to determine the best maintenance plan to keep him sound and happy, as well as to obviously make sure there isn't anything major going on that we don't know about.

    My original plan was to find another horse after I moved to lease and do my C3 on, while I saved up some money towards the purchase price for my own horse. I could still essentially do that if I brought him with me, but as I don't own my own place I'm not sure keeping him, and riding him or probably at probably a year or two, and then essentially paying his retirement for the next 10 or so years, on top of another horse, is the best financial decision.

    Despite all this I'm really leaning towards keeping him. I do really like him, he is super sweet on the ground even if sometimes he is a bit wild under saddle. I'm really just concerned that I'm letting my emotions get the better of me, and I'm hoping that you guys can help talk some sense into me!

    What are your plans if there is a health issue where he can no longer be ridden?
    Boss Mare Eventing Blog


      I think you should take him if he's free - at 21, the owners should just be glad to be sending him to a guaranteed good home - and you'll be in a position to finance his retirement along with a second horse in a few years. Are there inexpensive pasture/retirement board options where you're moving?

      That said, if he's sound for what you want at 21, you might just be amazed how well he'll do if you keep him in work and stay proactive about the issues you know he has.
      "Why would anybody come here if they had a pony? Who leaves a country packed with ponies to come to a non-pony country? It doesn't make sense!"


        Original Poster

        Jealoushe - the plan would be like any other horse, assess future quality of life with the vet, and then act accordingly. Barring an extreme change of circumstances, I will be in a financially stable enough place where I can afford board for a retiree and another horse.

        Scaramouch - That's what I'm hoping as well From what I've found board prices are lower than the area I am now. I haven't looked specifically at pasture or retirement board yet, but a barn with both a covered and outdoor arena and lots of turnout is around $500/month, so I could probably find something for less that doesn't have an arena or was further away from the city where I'll be living/working.


          When I bought my first horse, he was about 19. I bought him because I was working with a lot of younger horses and I wanted something that I didn't need to train. He was awesome. I could just get on him and go jump around or go on a trail ride without worrying about anything. The guy that helped me pick him out said to never jump him over 2'6", but that didn't matter to me at the time. We did some local hunter shows (this was before I got into eventing) and had fun. Sometimes I just got on him after a hard day or after a bad ride on a baby, just to get on something uncomplicated.

          I had him for 10 years and rode him 7 of those years. He was always a gentleman and always nice to ride.

          If you have no big competition goals, I think taking him with you is a good idea. He can do what you want and will likely be a familiar comfort in a new place and a way to relax as you adjust to your new life.

          You can very likely find a horse to do ratings on through the Pony Club you join at your new location, so I wouldn't worry about that.


            Originally posted by poniejumper View Post
            Jealoushe - the plan would be like any other horse, assess future quality of life with the vet, and then act accordingly. Barring an extreme change of circumstances, I will be in a financially stable enough place where I can afford board for a retiree and another horse.
            I would tread carefully here and really do your due diligence. He is likely to step down in work or need retirement in the next 3-5 years. How confident are you that you will be able to afford a retired horse, and a younger one? Do you have student loans? Do you intend to buy a house in the next ten years? How stable is your industry, and what is the realistic (not ideal) salary progression?

            When I was in school, I assumed I'd easily be able to afford a horse and actively show once I graduated as my career suggested a decent salary. The realities of being an adult, however, told a different story. There are so many additional expenses, and you need to consider more long term financial commitments. How old is your car - will it need to be replaced in the short to medium term? Will you be starting with a cushion, or will you need to save up a emergency fund? Can you afford two horses and adequately save for retirement, and for a possible house purchase?

            You need to really run the numbers in a realistic way, and ensure you aren't painting yourself into a corner. Allow that your goals may change slightly, and ensure you have room to accommodate that. When I was in school, I assumed I'd be perfectly happy living in a cheaper apartment and spending all the extra money on horses. As I aged, however, having a space that was mine became important. This didn't mean that I wanted to leave horses behind, but it did mean that I had to rethink how I was planning on spending my money.

            IMO one of the worst feelings in the world is that sinking feeling when you realize are unable to meet your financial obligations. Making horse care decisions based on financial considerations is not a great feeling either.


              I bought my current gelding at 19 years old, he's now 24 and he's the best purchase I ever made. He was a quasi-rescue and he's still totally sound for what I want to do- he's my super duper trail horse!! I bought a younger mare last year bc she was a good deal, but he still gets ridden at least once a week!
              Read my adventures with my 4 year old OTTB, Scott's Truluck at: Scottie's Journey, Rehabbing and Retraining a Louisiana-bred OTTB


                I took a chance on a much older FEI thing I ever did. He taught me tons, and has been rewarded with a great retirement. Not everyone can do this, but I am happy/lucky that we found each other, had great years together, and now I can do something for him.

                I say go for it!!!


                  IME, often older horses that are sound doing the work you want to do are proving their durability and may last longer even than a younger horse. So if the issue was only age, I would say snap him up.

                  An older horse in some ways has the advantage of being less of a commitment. I'd rather have a 21 year old horse with soundness issues than an 11 year old horse with soundness issues.

                  However, this horse does have some soundness issues and those could be a serious liability for you. It's hard to know what you mean by a little short sometimes and how significant that is for you and for him. Does it still happen or is it mostly gone? If it's mostly gone and doesn't interfere with your plans for him, I'd probably take him. And yes, the vet workup is a very good idea.

                  From what you describe, you have a plan that works for you when the horse can no longer do the work that interests you, and if so I would take him. A good older horse is a gem.
                  If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                    I think in your situation, unless he is FREE, don't take him on.

                    There is no guarantee, regardless of age, how long that horse is in this world for. You could buy a 4 year old that dies tomorrow. You could buy a 25 year old that lives another 10 years. I've met plenty of horses in work until their 30s, and you can tell a horse who has been properly managed his entire life.

                    Don't let the age prevent you from taking him on, but keep in mind his owners may not be TRYING to swindle you, but if they are expecting YOU to put down $$ for their aged horse that the average populace would not buy, it is a little of an interesting situation. IMHO I would be thrilled just to see someone who wanted my 21 y/o gelding..

                    If it is any consolation, our 20 y/o and 21 y/o just got put back into work.. one about a month ago, the other one yesterday. Both are so happy to have jobs
                    AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


                      Remember to price "shipping him across the country" into that "free" part.


                        Original Poster

                        Thanks everyone for all the advice and examples of your experience! It's really helpful to hear different opinions and perspectives.

                        Just to clarify a couple points:

                        Yes, he would be free. Perhaps "buying" was the wrong term in this case.

                        Soundness wise its hard to accurately describe how he felt. When I first started riding him he would come out a bit stiff at the beginning of my rides, but work out of it and go really well after a couple minutes of trotting. Now he comes out feeling 100% sound, except occasionally after having a couple days to a week plus off (but he still works right out of it). Stiff might not be the right word either, but he just was a bit more reluctant to engage and track up behind, but like I said he works right out of it, and I think having a base of fitness and building up proper muscling has really helped. If I decide I'd like to keep him the vet exam would be a must, and the results from that will definitely be a factor in the final decision.

                        I really understand the financial obligations of having horses are pretty big, and thats really why I'm thinking hard about this. I definitely don't want to end up in a situation where money becomes a problem. I'm lucky in that I'm going into a really lucrative (and seemingly stable) field, and I'm definitely still including savings/emergency fund/retirement etc in my budget. I know nothing is ever close to certain with horses, but I definitely want to make decisions which minimize the chances of ending up in hard situations.


                          Original Poster

                          FlightCheck - I have my own truck and trailer, and would be making the road trip with all my stuff anyway, so adding a horse won't be too much of an increase of cost


                            Well, I hate to be the voice of negativity because I too know tons of horses that were active into their twenties but I know tons that weren't too. No way would I BUY someone else's 21 year old to SHIP ACROSS THE COUNTRY. If you want to take on someone's aged project there will be plenty of them in your new location, I assure you. Wait until you get there, find a barn and trainer you like, and horse shop once you have settled in, figured out your new job and budget and life, and the gazillion and one other things you need to do to move cross country. Buy this horse half a dozen bags of carrots, make him a nice cake, kiss him on the nose and say thank you for the great experiences.

                            I offer all my horses a lovely retirement but generally I prefer than I've owned them for a good long while first! it makes the many years on the feed bill without working easier to justify. I would particularly want to do this if I had to board.

                            This horse is the perfect candidate to lease locally. But to buy, no.


                              Originally posted by poltroon View Post
                              IME, often older horses that are sound doing the work you want to do are proving their durability and may last longer even than a younger horse. So if the issue was only age, I would say snap him up.

                              An older horse in some ways has the advantage of being less of a commitment. I'd rather have a 21 year old horse with soundness issues than an 11 year old horse with soundness issues.
                              This is what I was coming to say. Much like with 10 year old racehorses still racing, there is a ton to be said for an older horse who is still in work and (more or less) sound. I have an 18 year old right now who can 100% still be in full work and moving up the levels (dressage). The fact that he isn't is all on me and my schedule, not him.

                              If I liked him and felt like he were capable of helping me reach my goals through the next 2-4 years (and possibly after that), I'd go for it. At the end of that point, he'll either be ready to retire, will still have the fire to keep reaching goals, or something else drastic will have happened.

                              And I'll echo the "it's kinda less responsibility" statement, harsh as it is. An 8 year old needing colic surgery? You might actually feel like you "have" to do it. A 23 year old? Easier to let go. Same with any other drastic measure.


                                If you really love the horse you probably won't regret it. I took on a free 21 year old I'd been riding already for 4 years. We are currently competing Novice and having a blast. But I'd also rather be riding her and doing Novice than riding something fancy and young and going higher. To me, the confidence I have in her is more valuable than anything.

                                Can you use him for the flat portions of your PC ratings and jump on a borrowed horse?


                                  I guess if I loved the horse and had been treating him like my own for almost a year....I'd take him. I'd save my money on a PPE. I'd just talk to my vet about a plan. You know I'm not as inclined to do a full PPE.

                                  There can be something good for the mind and heart taking him with you when you start something new.

                                  Are you doing something everyone would There are huge emotional as well as financial costs having a horse. But at 21...he could be sound for low level work for several more years...or not. A young horse could colic month after you buy him. There are no guarantees with any horse.

                                  So to me....think how you will feel leaving him behind....and think how you feel taking him with you. And make the decision that you are happiest making.
                                  ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                                    Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
                                    I guess if I loved the horse and had been treating him like my own for almost a year....I'd take him. I'd save my money on a PPE. I'd just talk to my vet about a plan. You know I'm not as inclined to do a full PPE.
                                    Yeah, I didn't do a PPE for mine. After 4 years I knew what the deal was! Find an excellent vet who will help you with management ASAP in your new home.


                                      There was just a piece on people being quick to write off the older horse. One woman told of her 27 doing UL dressage and often mistaken for a 10 yr old. Plenty of older horses in their 20's in jumping, endurance, dressage. Too bad you are not older and you could be in the group where your age + horses age must =100 or better If the horse can do the job you want and you get along/makes you happy, go for it.
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                                        You sound as though you are in a better position financially then a lot of people who buy horses IMO. I wouldn't waste your money on a PPE, any horse that's been sound doing what you ask of him for the past 8 months is likely fully capable of that job. Any older horse will probably start out a little stiff, some horses just take some time to warm up. If you love him, I don't see why you shouldn't go for it.
                                        Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique